Today is the first Sunday in Advent, so starting today, I'll be making a Christmas-themed post every day between now and the Feast of the Epiphany, a.k.a. the 12th day of Christmas. This is, somewhat to my surprise, my fourth year doing this. In 2003, I posted a Christmas poem every day; in 2004, works of Christmas-themed art from Washington, D.C.-area museums; in 2005, vintage and contemporary Christmas cards.
This year, I've decided to dip back into the literary well. I'm not limiting myself to poems this time around; I'll also be posting several works of prose. As always, I've tried to maintain a mix of sacred and secular works, and to cover a broad chronological spectrum.
So, without further ado, let's get it started:
Nothing will ease the pain to come
Though now she sits in ecstasy
And lets it have her way with her.
The angel’s shadow in the room
Is lightly lifted as if he
Had never terrified her there.
The furniture again returns
To its old simple state. She can
Take comfort from the things she knows
Though in her heart new loving burns
Something she never gave to man
Or god before, and this god grows
Most like a man. She wonders how
To pray at all, what thanks to give
And whom to give them to. “Alone
To all men’s eyes I now must go”
She thinks, “And by myself must live
With a strange child that is my own.”
So from her ecstasy she moves
And turns to human things at last
(Announcing angels set aside).
It is a human child she loves
Though a god stirs beneath her breast
And great salvations grip her side.
Elizabeth Jennings (1926 – 2001)
Now, strictly speaking, this is not a Christmas poem. The Feast of the Annunciation celebrates the revelation to Mary by the archangel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Son of God, and unsurprisingly, it is celebrated each year on March 25, nine months before Christmas. (Or on March 26, if Easter happens to fall on March 25 that year.) That said, so what. I found this poem in the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets book of Christmas poems, and who am I to argue with Everyman's Library?
Previous Advent posts: